Monday 29 June 2020

Too much chit chat

So here I am, posing nicely in front of the foxgloves while Gail and I waited for her friends J and F to join us at the start point of our walk on Saturday. 

As always, we were early, so I had time to examine the sign telling us all about the footpath route.

All very interesting I must say. Gail took one more photo and then our friends arrived.

And now I hate to disappoint anyone who was expecting more pictures of this historic route - Bronze Age sites, Roman camps etc. 

I regret to report that Gail, on seeing these good friends for the first time in months, completely forgot about her camera. In fact she almost forgot about me too, and the three humans nattered on and on and on. 

In between sniffing the greenery I caught snatches of the conversation. Have you noticed how our humans have all become experts in virology, epidemiology, post-pandemic economics and the efficacy of face masks? Then there was the state of the oil industry in Aberdeen (dire), the 26 episodes, each 1.5 hours, of a Korean TV series (also dire) that J+F's daughter-in-law Jihye had insisted they watch through lockdown.  And, oh so much else to talk about, apparently... 

Odd times still. 

PS The good news is that Gail tells me we'll be able to go across to our Torridon cottage again next week, for the first time since March. YIPPEE!!!!

Thursday 25 June 2020

Bertie Barks Back

It has come to my notice that on Monday this week my owner Gail hijacked my blog and wrote a long and rambling post in which she somehow implied that I was teetering on the brink of decrepitude.

Frankly, I was appalled and offended. Where to begin? 

Well, for starters, the words 'pot', 'kettle' and 'black' come to mind...

I mean, I think we can safely say there is only one resident of this household whose right knee makes ominous crunching noises every time she tries to follow 'PE with Joe'...

Whereas, it will be obvious from these photos taken on yesterday's walk in the woods...

...that there's plenty life in this (not so very) old dog yet! 

Toodle pip! 
Bouncing Bertie (for whom the word 'zoom' doesn't just mean a video call).

Monday 22 June 2020

Gail reflects on some changes in Bertie

Greetings to all Bertie's loyal friends!  Don't panic, this post does not contain terrible news, I simply felt like taking some time today to reflect on how things are with Bertie, now that he is over ten years old and so has truly entered the 'senior dog' phase of life.

These reflections were prompted by a gently lovely poem I came across a couple of weeks ago. It's not new, and many of you may already know it, although I didn't. It is by Rudyard Kipling. Each verse covers a stage in a dog's life. 


MASTER, this is Thy Servant. He is rising eight weeks old.
He is mainly Head and Tummy. His legs are uncontrolled.
But Thou has forgiven his ugliness, and settled him on Thy knee...
Art Thou content with Thy Servant? He is very comfy with Thee.

Master, behold a Sinner! He hath committed a wrong.
He hath defiled Thy Premises through being kept in too long. 
Wherefore his nose has been rubbed in the dirt, and his self-respect has been bruised,
Master, pardon Thy Sinner, and see he is properly loosed.

Master - again Thy Sinner! This that was once Thy Shoe,
He has found and taken and carried aside, as fitting matter to chew.
Now there is neither blacking nor tongue, and the Housemaid has us in tow.
Master, remember Thy Servant is young, and tell her to let him go!

Master, extol Thy Servant, he has met a most Worthy Foe!
There has been fighting all over the Shop - and into the Shop also!
Till cruel umbrellas parted the strife (or I might have been choking him yet)
But Thy Servant has had the Time of his Life - and now shall we call on the vet?

Master, behold Thy Servant! Strange children came to play,
And because they fought to caress him, Thy Servant wentedst away.
But now that the Little Beasts have gone, he has returned to see
(Brushed - with his Sunday collar on) what they left over from tea.

Master, pity Thy Servant! He is deaf and three parts blind.
He cannot catch Thy Commandments. He cannot read Thy Mind.
Oh, leave him not to his loneliness; nor make him that kitten's scorn.
He hath had none other God than Thee since the year that he was born.

Lord, look down on Thy Servant! Bad things have come to pass.
There is no heat in the midday sun, nor health in the wayside grass.
His bones are full of an old disease - his torments run and increase.
Lord, make haste with Thy Lightnings and grant him a quick release!

When I think of my experiences with Bertie, and before that with Hamish the Westie, this poem rings more true than almost any other I have come across. I smile every time I read verse 3. 

Over the past few months, I have increasingly noticed how Bertie's distance vision is deteriorating, and possibly his hearing too, although selective deafness is definitely a factor with the latter... So anyway, he is approaching (not too fast I hope) the sixth verse in Kipling's poem. I suspect he is developing cataracts, and will have this checked out when non-urgent veterinary treatment becomes possible again.

I have also observed slight behavioural changes since I have been home much more due to a combination of lockdown and retirement (which in my case happened in the same month!) Bertie has become a bit more overtly affectionate and attention-seeking than previously. This could be due to the change in routine, but I wonder also if his confidence has been jolted by his not being able to see so well, although otherwise his health thankfully continues to be excellent.

Anyway, Bertie has been working on his 'plaintive head tilt', which he now deploys when he suspects I am about to leave the house without him...

"Leave him not to his loneliness" the poet instructs the Master in verse 6, and of course I will do everything in my power to ensure Bertie feels safe and happy as old age approaches. To me he is the dearest little fellow in the world, and without him, our extended period of 'lockdown' would have been so much harder.

Friday 19 June 2020

What we are missing

While still confined to a limited radius around Aberdeen, we learn this week that in Scotland's mountainous, boggy areas, the cottongrass has been having a ball.

When Gail and I saw these photos on the BBC website a couple of days ago, we were sorely tempted to ignore all the rules and head for the hills... (but resisted the temptation).

Happy Nature Friday!

Wednesday 17 June 2020

I just want to make one thing clear....

I totally did NOT go running off and ignoring Gail's calls when her friend Margaret stopped to take some photos on our walk around Tyrebagger Wood yesterday morning.

I was simply, and I might add most considerately, scouting ahead to make sure that the ground was not too muddy or rough for the humans.

It was so unnecessary for Gail to come sprinting in pursuit and then return with me on the lead.

Sometimes, one does feel under-appreciated.

Look, here I am patiently waiting for Margaret and Jeff to catch up.

And here, posing nicely with them as instructed.

Yes I am a Good Dog, always, and never ever an embarrassment to my owner...

PS And thank you to Margaret for allowing me to use two of her photos, no.2 and no.3 in this post. See I am a Polite Dog too!

Monday 15 June 2020

Even in Aberdeen..

Our city is not known as a hotbed of radical activism, and our non-white human population must be considerably smaller than in most UK cities, so Gail and I were amazed and impressed to spot these posters and banners, hundreds of them, decorating the railings at the riverside entrance to Duthie Park this weekend.

A peaceful and poignant expression of outrage.

Here in Scotland, our physical world might be limited just now to a radius of five miles (more or less...) but events far, far away are still felt.  

Friday 12 June 2020

After a visit to Balmedie

Nature versus Trump

You who are so fond of walls,
And fences and barriers and all that divides us,
Take note of what nature has wrought
At the boundary of this, your alien golf course.

Balmedie's treasured shifting dunes,
You sought to stabilise, destroy.
But nature will not play your tunes,
No matter how much herbicide and barbed wire you deploy.

Keep out! You said. Not welcome here!
No entry to my Scottish land.
But Scottish sand dunes don't adhere,
To rules laid down by one self-centred, odious man...

Grain by grain, in winds they shift,
Slowly but inexorably, to devour
Each barricade put up to thwart,
The natural way of things. This is the greater power.

We hope that our dear friends Arty, Jakey and Rosy will forgive this small intrusion of politics into the generally controversy-free world of their Nature Friday blog hop...

Wednesday 10 June 2020

It's not cricket. Literally.

In normal times, summer in Duthie Park is heralded by the appearance of gentlemen dressed in white who take over a large area of the centre of the park on Saturday afternoons and indulge in a game known officially as 'cricket' and by some as 'organised loafing'.

In Aberdeen, we note that a disproportionate number of the players have brown skins and are apparently of South Asian heritage, and the fact that their cricket whites are often layered with fleece hoodies and even puffa jackets demonstrates how, in contrast to the Indian sub-continent, our chilly North Sea climate is not well suited to this slow-paced game.

Well anyway, due to Covid-19, these gentlemen have been absent this year, and so the outfield grass has not been mowed and the cricket pitch lies undisturbed.

But elsewhere in the park, the occasional gym refugee is still active on children's climbing frame.

Things here are far from back to normal yet.

Sunday 7 June 2020

Saturday outdoors and in

You could see the clouds were gathering when we took an afternoon stroll on the Aberdeen City Beach.

By evening the Scottish weather had fully reverted to type. 

So I settled down on the sofa with Gail and she brought out her latest knitting project.

Inspecting progress so far, I noted that I thought this jumper was going to be far too big, unless I was fed a lot of cake in the next month or two. You can imagine how shocked and dismayed I was when Gail said this one was intended for her not me! 
'Frost and fir' pullover pattern picture

But I soon overcame my disappointment and dozed off again.

An hour or so later, the needles were still clack-clacking away and, starting to feel neglected, I gave Gail my best "I need a tummy rub" look.

And adopted the appropriate pose. 

Gail held out for a minute or two, but eventually succumbed, as she always does. 

So all was well, until it was time for the TV news, and then I had to cover my eyes. 

Friday 5 June 2020

... the spice of life

Here in Aberdeen, we are still under a "strong recommendation" not to travel more than five miles from home.

How lucky we are, then to have, close at hand (or paw) such a variety of lovely places to visit. So this week, for Nature Friday I've put together a 'top ten' selection of photos taken over the past couple of months, to celebrate the often under-appreciated pleasures of staying local.

Overgrown path by Bridge of Dee
Pretty clematis on house near ours
Hazlehead golf course free of golfers
Azalea garden in Hazlehead Park
Foghorn (aka 'The Torry Coo') and Girdle Ness lighthouse
Lady feeding crows in Duthie Park
Sow thistle thriving in absence of council's annual application of weedkiller
Colourful front garden in Ferryhill 
By the seashore - Girdle Ness
Tolohill Wood with friends Margaret and Jeff

Thanks once again to our lovely friends Arty, Jakey and Rosie for hosting this, our favourite blog hop.